Barneck v Utah Department of Transportation

Rain water backed up at a clogged culvert which eventually washed out a portion of highway. Barneck and another driver fell into the hole left by the washout injuring three and killing one. The survivors sued Department and Barneck also brought a wrongful death suit. Department moved for summary judgment arguing it was immune under the flood water and storm system exclusions to immunity waiver for failure to maintain highway or culvert. The district court granted judgment to Department on both grounds. The Court reversed and remanded. It held that the government immunity waiver act adopted tort premises liability as to failure to maintain highways and tort understanding of flood waters namely water that enters a watercourse then overflows the banks. The Court held that management is potentially ambiguous, but, given the context of natural disasters, it means planning and organizing not successfully dealing with flood water. The Court held the culvert was at most part of a storm system and thus that exclusion did not apply. The Court held the exclusions to waiver are subject to proximate cause analysis instead of but for causation as that is a permissible reading of the act and it keeps the waiver from being swallowed up by the exclusion. Applying here, summary judgment was not appropriate as the waters responsible for the washout were alleged to not be flood waters, Department took no action at all and were thus not engaged in management.